Six things you must do in Corfu to renew your love affair for this gem of the Ionian (including cricket, Mediterranean ports and villas rented by The Durrells)
- Greek island Corfu is currently featured in all its glory on ITV’s The Durrells
- It’s seen mass tourism but there’s still lots of charm to this island gem
- Mail on Sunday has picked the places that you should not miss on a visit
It is surely time to renew our love affair with Corfu, currently being shown in all its glory on the ITV series The Durrells.
Despite mass tourism, the gem of the Ionian still holds many traces and memories of Gerald Durrell’s famous family (and other animals), as well as cricket and lashings of ginger beer.
Here Mail on Sunday lists the places holidaymakers should stop to see when visiting the Greek island.
A dice on the rock
Despite mass tourism, Corfu still holds many traces and memories of Gerald Durrell’s famous family (and other animals), as well as cricket and lashings of ginger beer
The Durrells rented three properties (all now privately owned) during their stay on the island from 1935 to 1939.
Visitors can still rent one of them – Villa Agazini, dubbed the Strawberry Pink Villa – above Perama (it’s available through Airbnb).
The other place you can see is Lawrence Durrell’s villa at Kalami, ‘set like a dice on a rock’. Today it is a hotel and a taverna.
Lawrence’s book Prospero’s Cell is a wonderful evocation of the island in the 1930s.
Corfu has been a busy tourist magnet since the 1960s. But there are still quiet corners of this island, described by Gerald Durrell in his autobiography My Family And Other Animals as a ‘multi-coloured Lilliput’.
Some of the best are set around the islet of Pondikonisi, the Kanoni peninsula, and Lake Halikiopoulou and the adjoining Chessboard Fields – salt-flats made by the Venetians.
In the wilder, greener northern part of the island, you’ll find Bonelli’s eagles and swallowtail butterflies.
The Old Town, dominated by its two fortresses built by the Venetians to guard the narrow gap across to today’s Albania, is a prime example of a well-preserved Mediterranean fortified port.
Unesco lauds its architecture for its ‘outstanding universal value’.
Birthplace of a prince
The British ruled Corfu between 1814 and 1864, taking over from Napoleon. The grandest building in Britain’s legacy is the Palace of St Michael and St George in Corfu Town.
The former residence and seat of administration of the British High Commissioner is a fusion of the architecture of Rome and Ancient Greece. Today it is the Museum of Asian Art.
Another celebrated island home is Mon Repos, birthplace of Prince Philip and now the Museum of Paleopolis, with finds from the ancient city that stood on this spot.
In the quiet grounds look for the site of the Temple of Artemis. A pity the separate Archaeological Museum, which displays the temple pediment, is currently closed.
In Corfu Town, a familiar sound echoes off the Venetian mansions and French colonnades – the thwack of leather on willow, with the occasional strangled ‘Owzat!’ They’ve played cricket (known here as ‘block and wallop’) since 1823.
In Corfu Town, a familiar sound echoes off the Venetian mansions and French colonnades – the thwack of leather on willow, with the occasional strangled ‘Owzat! Above, the seafront by the Venetian Fort
Visiting British sailors would take on the islanders on the Napoleonic army parade ground. The moribund game was revived after the Second World War when Britain’s vice-consul appealed for players back home to send spare bats and balls.
Today, 13 of Greece’s 20 teams are based on the island – in 1995 the International Cricket Council admitted Greece largely because of the strength of Corfu cricket – so finding a match to watch on a summer’s day should be simple.
Here for the beer
Ginger beer, or tsitsibira, is another refreshing legacy of the British – one of the main producers is the Chimarios family.
Another thing we left behind is the kumquat. This small citrus fruit with a bittersweet flavour thrives on the island. They make it into kumquat liqueur, a drink said to be unique to Corfu.
For foodies, head to the Foros taverna in Old Perithia, which was featured in Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes series. It does a brilliant briam – potatoes, aubergine, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, parsley and olive oil.